I have my opinions about the quality of leadership on COVID-19 that we’ve received at various levels of government, that but is not the subject of this article. Regardless of the leadership, much of the effort on COVID-19 rests with each of us. If everyone or most of us in our community take the right actions, we can beat back COVID-19 in Cuyahoga County. The following are the actions I believe to be most important:
1. KEEP YOUR DISTANCE: I believe that keeping proper distance from others is the most important preventive action. The general rule of staying six feet apart is a good guideline, but some situations require more. If one is in an enclosed indoor space where people are talking loudly, singing, or coughing, ten to fifteen feet distancing would be required, and hopefully not much time would be spent there. If one is running outside, and you quickly pass another person a little closer than six feet, it would probably not be a problem.
One thing you hear from people who don’t want to weak masks, is that it encourages people to be complacent about physical distancing. They’re only right so far as emphasizing that physical distancing is the most important thing. Wearing a mask always helps, but does not provide complete protection when one is too close to another person. Always remember that keeping proper distance is the primary preventive action. Everything else adds additional layers of protection.
2. WEAR A MASK: Wearing masks diligently is essential as the second most essential preventive action. Wearing a mask helps prevent spread for both the wearer and other people who are nearby. The strongest evidence that wearing masks works is that wearing masks is very prevalent in almost all countries that have successfully gotten the virus under control. Masks should be worn at all times when indoors and not in one’s own home or vehicle and outdoors whenever one is within 20 feet of other people. A person who is both wearing a mask and maintaining proper distance is very well protected from either getting or spreading COVID-19. The new statewide mask order from Governor DeWine will facilitate an effective statewide effort. Also, don’t be one of those people who has their mask around their neck or only partially on half the time. That doesn’t get us where we need to be to stop the virus.
3. CHOOSE ACTIVITIES WISELY: Just because a particular activity is open, it doesn’t mean that you should participate in it. Essential activities that are required to maintain your household should be done only as often as necessary and with strong attention to preventive practice. Non-essential recreational and social activities should wait until the pandemic is over. There are some social activities, such as weddings, funerals, and graduations that are important markers, and not celebrating them would cause other long-term negative effects. In such cases, the celebrations and observances should be done with careful attention to safety. For example, I participated in a high school graduation event in which we dressed up vehicles and did a parade past the graduate’s home.
4. OUTDOOR OVER INDOOR: Strong scientific evidence suggests that outdoor activities are safer than indoor activities. The open air disperses the virus and reduces the chance of significant exposure. Definitely prefer outdoor activities over indoor activities and move activities outdoors whenever you have a say in the matter.
5. LIMIT EXPOSURE TIME: Any potential exposure to COVID-19 can be dangerous, but one is much more likely to contract the virus when exposed for an extended length of time. Make extra efforts to avoid situations involving extended exposures of 10 minutes or longer.
6. WASH HANDS FREQUENTLY; CLEAN HI TOUCH SURFACES: We believe that one is more likely to get COVID-19 from direct inhalation of air-borne droplets, but infection can also occur if one contacts infected surfaces and then touches one’s face. Frequent and thorough handwashing and sanitizing of frequently touched surfaces reduces the risk of such infection.
7. GET A FLU SHOT: We are very likely to have a bad situation in the late fall and winter when people start getting symptoms and don’t know whether it is flu or COVID-19. This will greatly burden the medical system. It is more important than ever to get a flu shot this year. Doing so will save you from having your resistance to COVID-19 lowered by a bout with the flu and will enable our medical system to be able to handle the flu and COVID-19 at the same time.
8. VOTE BY MAIL: This November’s election is important, but so is your safety. Fortunately, Ohio has a long history of voting by mail, and any registered voter may do so by sending in a vote-by-mail request form. The Board of Elections is accepting such requests now. Leaders of both political parties, including Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, agree that voting by mail in Ohio is easy and safe.
9. STAY INFORMED: There is a lot of misinformation about COVID-19 circulating around, and staying informed is harder because even the best available information changes from time to time. Be very selective about sources of information on COVID-19. There are few 100% perfect sources of such information, but I pay attention to the following: the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Governor Michael DeWine and the Ohio Health Department, Executive Armond Budish and the Cuyahoga County Health Department, and Mayor Frank Jackson and the Cleveland Health Department.
10. MAKE THIS A TEAM EFFORT: Some people are more likely to suffer serious illness from COVID-19 than others. However, recent evidence suggests that even people who easily recover may suffer long term effects which are not well understood. We’re all in this together, and we should be just as wary of transmitting the virus to someone else as we are of getting it ourselves. I don’t believe I’ve seen a more compelling demonstration of the fact that everything we do affects everyone else.
IT WON’T ALWAYS BE THIS WAY: I believe we will have a vaccine and effective treatments by the first half of next year. If we all make a really strong preventive effort over the next few months, then almost all of us can be here to celebrate when the pandemic is behind us.